I never thought Mike Ditka would actually run for the United States Senate. But I really, really wanted him to.

Hey, I know he might not have been a great senator. He's too obnoxious, too impatient, too "either do it my way or I'll grab you by the shirt and shake you up good" for such a deliberative body.

Slowly but surely, the state legislature is being replaced by five guys in a back room.

It's old news that the four legislative leaders and the governor have totally hijacked the budget process. For years now, the governor, the House speaker, the Senate president, and the House and Senate minority leaders have met behind closed doors to hammer out the state's spending plans.

Who's to blame for the overtime legislative session?

It's a question you will probably hear a lot in the coming days, even weeks, as the factions jockey for position.

In case you haven't heard, the state budget is a mess.

During the last scheduled night of the spring legislative session, a reporter decided to step outside for a smoke.

While he was outdoors, he tried to catch a glimpse inside the governor's office.

In one window, the reporter saw Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk talking to someone on the telephone.

In a spectacular reversal of fortune, the Chicago Tribune reported last week that Governor Rod Blagojevich's job-approval rating has dropped to just 40 percent.

In February, a Tribune poll had Blagojevich's approval rating at 55 percent.

Something really stinks at CMS.

The latest scandal to hit the powerful Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) revolves around a lucrative contract to manage health-care costs for tens of thousands of state workers and their families.

Part of me cheered when Governor Rod Blagojevich took a shot at Chicago Mayor Richard Daley last week.

In case you haven't heard, last Monday, Daley announced that he wanted a huge, land-based, city-owned casino.

There's always a soap opera at the Illinois statehouse, but this year's version is a bit crazier than usual.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is killing off Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich's proposals left and right.

The concept of "racial slippage" is back, and it's being misapplied to Illinois.

Racial slippage describes a situation of minority candidates doing worse than the polls predict. According to the theory, some white voters lie to pollsters and tell them they support a black candidate because they might be embarrassed to admit that they aren't going to vote for an African American.

With all the breathless coverage of the Illinois Gaming Board's decision to put a riverboat in Rosemont, a big story has been completely ignored.

Why did the board's staff twist so many facts, ignore so many problems, and neglect to look into serious mob ties in order to put a casino next door to Rosemont, in Des Plaines?

You don't have to look much further for proof that staff favored Des Plaines than its selection of the casino-bidding finalists.